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Issue 100 - The Goon Squad

Whisky Magazine Issue 100
December 2011


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The Goon Squad

Jefferson Chase looks at a recent prize winner

I tend to lag a bit behind when it comes to bestseller lists and literary awards so I was intrigued when I spotted Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, before the year was close to over.

There's no doubt a plausible explanation, but I forget all about the issue when I delved into Egan's work, which hovers somewhere between a collection of short stories and a novel. The “goon” of the title is none other than time itself, and the plot revolves around two generations of people involved in the music business, with no one dominant storyline.

In one of the stories/chapters, two young groupies hook up with a reptilian producer named Lou, who's at least 20 years their senior.

He immediately gets one of them into bed. But what's beside his bed is of more interest: Look, she goes. She holding a framed picture of Lou in a swimming pool surrounded by kids, the littlest ones almost babies. I count six. Jocelyn goes, They're his children.

Egan's ear for the period can be heard in the use of “go” for “say” – how very late 1980s America. And her handling of character immediately yields the question: If Lou is such a slime bag, why does he keep pictures of his kids at his bedside?

The next section relates the trip to Africa on which that photo was taken. Lou has taken a band from Arizona on safari, and a member named Chronos has very nearly gotten his head bit off by a lion, before being rescued by the group's African guide: Albert...

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